Denali and Rainier National Parks Set to raise Mountaineering Fees
September 7, 2010
Director, National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
RE: Mountaineering Fees: Denali National Park & Preserve/Mount Rainier National Park
Dear Director Jarvis:
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association recently became aware that Denali National Park & Preserve (Denali) intends, without public notice, to raise mountaineering fees 150% from $200 to $500 per climber. In addition, a steep increase for mountaineering fees (from $30 to $50 on top of camping fees) is proposed at Mount Rainier National Park (Rainier). In these tough economic times, these large fee increases will price Americans out of their own parks. We write today to protest these unnecessary and unfair mountaineering fee increases, and request information about National Park Service mountaineering programs and any associated budgeting and related costs to better understand the need to raise these already disproportionate recreation fees.
We are particularly troubled that these fee increases did not receive the benefit of public input and the National Park Service failed to even consult with its long-time partners at the Access Fund, American Alpine Club and American Mountain Guides Association. We request that any proposals to increase mountaineering fees at Denali or Rainier be analyzed through a range of alternatives and benefit from an open public process with published information about the need and purpose for an increased fee.
Access Fund, American Alpine Club and American Mountain Guides Association
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, and American Mountain Guides Association are national climbing advocacy organizations dedicated to climbing access, conservation, advancing the climbing way of life, and advocating for American climbers. These national climbing organization each have a long history of working with the National Park Service, including input on the 2006 revision to the NPS Management Policies, comment letters on hundreds of local management plans around the country, rescue cost-recovery and recreation impact studies, grants and many thousands of volunteer hours in support education and stewardship projects, field training and climbing management conferences, and congressional advocacy urging robust funding for National Park Service operations. We have also long worked collaboratively with the National Park Service and dozens of other national parks around the country on climbing management planning initiatives and stewardship projects. For more about us, see www.accessfund.org, www.americanalpineclub.org, and http://amga.com/.
The Access Fund, American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guides Association are your best partners with respect to the education of mountaineers, public support for your management goals and programs, and the fulfillment of your obligation to provide unique mountaineering opportunities in the parks. However, these fee increases were proposed without input from the mountaineering community despite our expertise and affiliation with this specific user group (mountaineers). Denali’s plan to raise mountaineering fees from $200 to $500 reflects an unprecedented increase, is not based on need, and unfairly targets climbers. Moreover, simply raising fees 150% without public input during these tough economic times is shocking and is likely to result in lower numbers of Americans able to afford the unique mountaineering experiences found at Denali. This extraordinary mountaineering fee increase is a national issue and we believe that Denali managers may simply be unfairly shifting more of the burden of the park’s budget onto climbers. We’re also skeptical that the current fee level for mountaineering is warranted. Rainier’s fee increase appears similarly unjustified. We fear that these added costs will make the unique mountaineering opportunities available at Denali and Rainier too expensive for many Americans.
So we can better understand the National Park Service’s specific management challenges related to mountaineering (and thus inform our members and the public generally), we request your cooperation in providing us with as much information as possible related to mountaineering programs and any associated plans or programs at both Denali and Rainier. To that end, we request the following information from these two parks:
§ Any costs, expenses, and budgeting documentation, correspondence or related information (including years) concerning the mountaineering programs (or other park operations affecting climbing management) at Denali and Rainier, specifically:
- Search and rescue and any emergency medical services
- Visitor use statistics (numbers, categories and attributes of park users
- General park operations and law enforcement
- Visitor and resource protection
§ Any National Park Service records or correspondence related to the establishment and maintenance of the current mountaineering fee at Denali and Rainier national parks.
§ Any National Park Service records or correspondence related to any proposals to increase the mountaineering fee at Denali and Rainier national parks.
§ All public or individual notices provided by the National Park Service concerning the preparation of any management plans or policies that have any proposals or influence on recreation fees at Denali and Rainier national parks.
We will be filing a Freedom of Information Act request to both Denali and Rainier to obtain the information outlined above. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact any of us at your convenience. We look forward to working with the National Park Service to preserve the world-class mountaineering opportunities found at Denali and Rainier national parks.
Thank you for your assistance.
American Alpine Club
American Mountain Guides Association
The Honorable Patty Murray, US Senate
The Honorable Maria Cantwell, US Senate
The Honorable Lisa Murkowski, US Senate
The Honorable Mark Begich, US Senate
The Honorable Don Young, US House of Representatives
The Honorable Dave Reichert, US House of Representatives
US Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
US Senate National Parks Subcommittee
US House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
US House of Representatives National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee
Will Shafroth, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, US Interior Department
Garry Oye, Chief of Wilderness Stewardship & Recreation Management, National Park Service
Rick Potts, Chief of Conservation & Outdoor Recreation Division, National Park Service
Paul Anderson, Superintendent, Denali National Park
Dave Uberuaga, Superintendent, Mount Rainier National Park
Mike Gauthier, Liaison to the National Park Service, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, US Interior Department
Forest Service Recommends Extending Closure of Williamson Rock
Since 2004, the Angeles National Forest has banned climbing at Williamson Rock due to conflicts with critical habitat of the endangered Mountain Yellow Legged Frog. A 2009 wildfire complicated matters further when portions of the forest, including the frog’s critical habitat, were burned. Angeles National Forest recently proposed extending the current closure at Williamson Rock for three more years to continue monitoring the endangered frog species. According to the Angeles National Forest, this action is needed “while neighboring [mountain yellow-legged frog] population segments are given time to rebound from the effects of wildfire and consequent watershed emergency.”
The Access Fund and our partners, Friends of Williamson Rock and Allied Climbers of San Diego, are working to assess whether the extended closure is warranted and to ensure that the US Forest Service study alternate approach trails to the popular crag that would allow climbing access and also protect sensitive wildlife habitat.
Please take a moment to show your support by urging the US Forest Service to study alternate approach trails to Williamson Rock.
Your comments, which must be submitted by October 1st, may be sent to:
Attn: Williamson Rock Environmental Assessment
701 N. Santa Anita Ave. Arcadia, CA 91006
For more information, please visit Friends of Williamson Rock or email Jason Keith at Jason@accessfund.org.
Southeastern Climbers Coalition Pays Back its AFLCC Loan for Steele
Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC) paid back its loan for the Steele cliff line to the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC) last week, making it the second loan to fully revolve back into the program. The early payment comes just a month after Washington Climbers Coalition’s repayment, further proving the efficacy of the AFLCC to provide local climbing organizations the short-term capital necessary to secure climbing resources.
The $20,000 loan facilitated the SCC’s purchase of a 29-acre tract in Steele, Alabama in September of 2009. The property provides access, parking, and a central piece of cliff line that was closed to climbing since 1987. SCC raised a large portion of the $55,000 purchase price for Steele, with the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign loan giving the financial support to close on the property, as well as seek adjacent cliff line. “The funds gave us the extra cushion in the final days to go ahead and proceed with the Steele purchase. We look forward to our next project together with the Access Fund,” says SCC’s Brad McLeod.
SCC continues its mission of opening new areas and permanently protecting threatened favorites in the Southeast. Just last month, Access Fund and SCC partnered up for a week of site visits in Alabama and Tennessee, exploring potential projects and solutions to pressing access issues. The Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign can be a critical resource in helping protect these properties, offering financing and acquisition expertise.
Vermont's Carcass Crag Acquired!
CRAG-VT is thrilled to announce the acquisition of one of Vermont’s best sport climbing cliffs: the Carcass Crag! This winter, CRAG-VT signed a purchase and sale agreement to annex the cliff through a boundary line adjustment on their Bolton Quarry climbing area. With the support of the Access Fund and local climbers, CRAG-VT completed the land purchase in early July. This acquisition adds three additional acres of rock to the Bolton Quarry property and permanently secures public access the cliff. It is the fourth property that CRAG-VT has acquired to ensure public access to climbing and the preservation of the natural environment.
In Vermont, many cliffs are on private land; a fact that presents persistent access challenges to local climbers. To minimize the likelihood of closure by landowners, climbing at the Carcass and several other crags has been a closely guarded secret for nearly a decade. Recognizing the importance of the cliff and the access challenges certain to ensue when the word got out, CRAG-VT decided to be proactive. They approached the landowners, explained the situation, and were able to secure an agreement to buy the cliff. Now that access is permanently secured, CRAG-VT and the Access Fund have opened the door for climbers to enjoy this great place.
Derek Doucet was possibly the first to envision potential of this imposing cliff when he discovered it by accident in the winter of 1998. Doucet had been climbing ice in the Quarry and was preparing to leave when his Black Lab, Auggie went missing. A prolonged search turned up Auggie with his head and shoulders buried in a rotting deer carcass, tail wagging ecstatically. Doucet looked up to see the crag whose name will forever memorialize the hapless deer. That spring, Doucet brought Dave Furman to the cliff and Furman soon established Who’s Your Daddy (5.12c), the Carcass’s mega-classic line. The ‘Daddy was a revelation to the backwater tradsters of Chittenden county; it was a phenomenal route that immediately revealed the potential of sport climbing in Vermont and kicked off the flurry of new route development that defined the following decade. After Furman’s contribution it wasn’t long before other climbers were inspired to put up other great climbs like Alternative Power (5.12a), Worthless Stud (5.11d) and Progress (5.11a)—every route tackling the ominous overhang half-way up the cliff.
Completion of this acquisition was only possible with the effort and support of many people. CRAG-VT would like to thank Dr. Richard Katzman for his level head and diplomacy; Vermont climbers for their tireless enthusiasm; and the Access Fund for their generous grant and continued support.
Action Alert: Restore Climbing Opportunities at Arches National Park
We need your help to restore the unique wilderness climbing opportunities found only in Arches National Park!
In 2006, the National Park Service banned the use of fixed anchors after the Delicate Arch controversy and effectively banned climbing on many of the Park's historic towers. The restriction they placed on permanent climbing hardware was a reaction to a random controversy and not a planning process that demonstrated a need to limit these necessary climbing tools.
Currently, Arches National Park is developing a Climbing and Canyoneering Plan that will consider various management scenarios for climbing in Arches including fixed anchors, new routes via permit, access trails, resource protection, group sizes, and commercial guiding.
Help us urge park planners to protect the historic and unique climbing opportunities at Arches National Park by using our letter-writing tool. The Park Service is looking for your unique thoughts on how to balance climbing with wilderness character and park resources.
Access Fund Launches Advocacy Campaign to Support Land & Water Conservation Fund
In light of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Congress is looking to invest $900 million each year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – a fund set up in 1965 to reinvest some of the wealth from offshore drilling into conservation and recreation.
The LWCF is the most effective funding mechanism available to Congress to expand and improve opportunities for human-powered outdoor pursuits like climbing. And with our new Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, we are positioned to take full advantage of this funding to protect climbing lands on a scale like never before.
Congress plans to take this legislation up this week. Please take action and write your Senators and Representatives today using our easy-to-use advocacy tool!
This is a LIVE action alert. Please take action now!
Washington Climbers Coalition pays off Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign loan for Index, returning funds to the revolving loan program
The Access Fund announced today that the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) has paid back its loan to the Access Fund for the option agreement on Lower Index Town Wall in Washington. The loan was administered under the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC).
In the spring of 2009, the Access Fund loaned the WCC $15,000 to secure an 18-month option agreement to protect the Lower Index Town Wall and surrounding crags from a quarrying operation. The option agreement protected the area while the WCC worked to raise the $300,000 needed to purchase and steward the 20-acre tract of land.
Over the last year and a half, climbers from all over the nation worked together to raise the funds to purchase the Lower Index Town Wall—fundraising through bouldering competitions, slideshows, and major donor requests. “The community response has been incredible,” says Jonah Harrison of the WCC. “The challenge with Index was not, as we had originally thought, getting people together to work and donate to the cause. It was how to channel all the talent, enthusiasm, and funds people offered.” We are happy to report that WCC has nearly reached its fundraising goal and is well positioned to purchase the property before the December 31, 2010 deadline.
The WCC submitted its final loan repayment to the Access Fund on June 22, 2010—returning the original $15,000 to the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign where it will be loaned back out to save other climbing areas. “It has been exciting to work so closely with the WCC and see the AFLCC’s first loan fully revolve back into the fund,” states the Access Fund’s Joe Sambataro.
The WCC is still working to reassign the land to a climber friendly public owner (such as Washington State Parks or the County), to secure access across the railroad tracks, and to find a suitable location for parking improvements and toilet facilities. With each step, the WCC is closer to securing permanent access for future generations of climbers.
Encouraging News for Climbing Access in Yosemite
In January we asked for your help to write Yosemite National Park urging them to protect and enhance climbing opportunities in the latest Merced River Plan (MRP), which looked like it could limit public access to climbing and camping in Yosemite Valley depending on how the Park prepares its user capacity program. Climbs in the planning area include The Rostrum, Cookie Cliff, and Middle Cathedral Rock (everything ¼ mile on either side of the river). This plan will also affect all travel through the management area to locations just outside the river corridor, which brings into play all climbing in Yosemite Valley including El Capitan and even Half Dome.
The park recently announced in its “Outstanding Remarkable Value” report that it recognizes the recreational significance of Yosemite Valley, and specifically acknowledges climbing as an active pursuit that draws people from around the world. This is important because climbing as an activity is now more likely to be “protected and enhanced” rather than restricted.
The Park will hold public workshops and roundtables on their draft “Outstanding Remarkable Value” report, which will include discussions with Yosemite planners and user capacity experts.
Discussion with Yosemite subject matter and user capacity experts
San Ramon City Council Chamber 925/973-2500
2228 Camino Ramon, San Ramon, CA
Fresno County Supervisors Chamber 559/488-3529
2281 Tulare St, Room 301, Fresno, CA
Oakhurst Community Center 559/683-2290
39800 Road 24B, Oakhurst, CA
Yosemite Valley Auditorium 209/379-2210
2 presentations (2:30 and 5 PM) during open house
Discussion with Yosemite subject matter experts
Groveland Community Hall 209/962-7990
18730 Main St, Hwy 120, Groveland, CA
11:30 am-1:30 pm
Mono Basin Visitor Center 760/647-3044
Highway 395, Lee Vining, CA
El Portal Community Center 209/379-1112
5567 Foresta Rd, El Portal, CA
For more information, email Jason@accessfund.org.
Minnewaska State Park Will Consider New Climbing Opportunities
Last fall we asked climbers to comment on a master plan for Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and urge park planners to consider climbing opportunities in the Park. The initial draft plan would have banned climbing throughout most of the park despite the presence of many high quality crags. See our comments here. Last spring we also asked you to write New York State legislators and advocate for preserving funding for state parks like Minnewaska.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) just released the final Master Plan for Minnewaska and unlike the restrictive draft plan, the final plan directs that a climbing management plan will be developed for the Preserve indicating areas suitable and unsuitable for rock climbing. Given the current budget constants, as well as the agency’s various mandates, this plan is about as good as the climbing community could have realistically hoped for and it’s good news that Minnewaska will now consider future climbing opportunities throughout most of the park subject to environmental study. While the plan is still flawed (ice climbing will remain banned and OPRHP will exclude the entire Palmaghatt Ravine from the future climbing management plan) climbers should also be encouraged by the fact that the Master Plan elevates a future climbing management plan into the list of “Priority 1” projects for the park and thus should receive funding sooner than later. We applaud OPRHP and Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) for listening to the climbing community and considering new environmentally responsible climbing opportunities.
For more information, contact the Gunks Climbers Coalition.
Access Fund Becomes Nationally Recognized Member of Land Trust Alliance
The Access Fund announced today that it has become a nationally recognized member of the Land Trust Alliance, committing itself to meeting the same high standards as other leading land conservation organizations around the country.
Since 1991, the Access Fund has supported 39 acquisitions of climbing areas in the United States. Six of those projects have been direct acquisitions by the Access Fund Land Foundation, a separate entity set up two decades ago to hold title of land and easements, while offering the Access Fund liability protection.
Throughout the 1990s, the Access Fund Land Foundation was an important conservation tool, allowing the Access Fund to purchase and transfer climbing resources at Rumney in New Hampshire and Shelf Road in Colorado. The Access Fund Land Foundation has also been used to hold threatened properties in Colorado, including property in Unaweep Canyon, Golden Cliffs Preserve on North Table Mountain, and Society Turn Crag outside Telluride. It also held a conservation easement at Handley Rock outside San Francisco.
Earlier this year, members of the board of directors from both organizations made the unanimous decision to dissolve the Access Fund Land Foundation and transfer all holdings to the Access Fund. This simplified organizational model will reduce administrative burdens, speed up land transactions, and maximize the effectiveness of the Access Fund’s private land protection efforts.
The Access Fund will continue to support local climbing organizations with acquisitions under the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, which provides short-term financing, transactional expertise, and land management advice. However, for critical projects outside the reach of an existing local climbing organization, the Access Fund can now pursue temporary acquisitions when important climbing resources are imminently threatened.
This change will also enable the Access Fund to steward properties in compliance with Land Trust Standards and Practices. Since the dissolution of the Access Fund Land Foundation, the Access Fund has developed land management plans for its holdings in Unaweep Canyon, Golden Cliffs, and Society Turn Crag to ensure sustainable recreational use of these open space areas. Volunteer Land Stewards have been put into place in each area to help monitor and steward each of these properties.
“This is a change in the way we pursue conservation efforts and manage climbing areas,” says Access Director Joe Sambataro. “We have stepped up our commitment to stewarding the climbing areas we’ve helped secure, as well as positioned ourselves to better protect threatened resources.”
Access Fund to Refinance Pendergrass-Murray Loan, Saving Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition Thousands
The Access Fund announced today that it will provide Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition with short-term financing to pay off the current seller-financed loan on the Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. www.accessfund.org/aflcc.
The Pendergrass-Murray Recreational Preserve is a classic Red River Gorge destination, hosting more than 500 climbs, ranging from 5.4 to 5.14c, and new climbs constantly being discovered and developed. The steep, beautiful sandstone walls are overhanging and pocketed and offer technical, dynamic, and endurance climbing. The property hosts several hundred climbers each weekend, with the three parking lots often reaching capacity by noon.
A $65,000 loan will be supplied by the new Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign, a revolving loan program that provides local climbing organizations with the funds and expertise needed to act quickly to save threatened climbing areas. The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition purchased the property in January of 2004, making it the largest direct land acquisition to date by rock climbers.
Through aggressive fundraising and two grants from the Access Fund, the Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition has paid down a significant portion of the original loan. By refinancing the remainder of the loan under the Access Fund’s new program, the Coalition will save approximately $10,000 in interest and fees that can be invested in other projects that benefit the Red River Gorge climbing community. The refinance will also eliminate the risk of losing the property to a private third-party, since a missed annual payment under the previous seller-financed loan would have returned the property to the seller and the funds raised by climbers would have been lost.
The refinance deal will set aside approximately $15,000 for land management costs of the Pendergrass-Murray property, as well as funds to allow RRGCC to pursue more climbing areas in the region.
This is the fifth Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign project, with active loans totaling over $200,000. Of these funds, $17,000 has been paid back, returning funds to the revolving loan program to be invested into other climbing conservation efforts by local climbing organizations and the Access Fund. For more informaiton, visit
Spadout.com donates $1 to the Access Fund for new facebook fans
Access Fund corporate parnter Spadout.com is running a promotion from May 17 - 31, where it will donate $1 to the Access Fund for every new fan that joins their Facebook group. Join their group today at www.facebook.com/spadout to send a dollar to the Access Fund!
Park Service to Pull Bolts at Christmas Tree Pass, Nevada?
The NPS proposes to pull bolts within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in southern Nevada, risking several remote desert climbs found at Christmas Tree Pass in the Newberry Mountains. The NPS justifies this plan as necessary to protect archeological resources and wilderness character. However, it appears that the NPS mistakenly thought that “the bolts do not receive much use,” despite the presence of dozens of climbs that receive regular visitation. The NPS proposal also fails to identify actual conflicts caused by climbing that would make this location any different from the dozens of wilderness areas around the country where climbing and some level of fixed anchor use is allowed. After discussions with the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council, the Access Fund, and other climbing advocates, and a field trip to the area with climbers, the NPS has agreed to extend the public comment period to July 2 to give climbers and other users an opportunity to provide input into the planning process.
Stay tuned to Access Fund e-news for updates and an opportunity to make your voice heard.
Your Chance to Influence New Jack City Camping
You have the opportunity to influence improvements at Sawtooth Camping Area at New Jack City.
The Southern California Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is proposing a project that would enhance the existing recreation opportunities for climbers and remote campers with the addition of 12 camp sites, one new restroom, a new kiosk, a picnic area and a host site. Each camp site would have a shade ramada, picnic table, fire pit and grill, and a barbeque.
The BLM office would like climbers' input before writing an environmental assessment for improvements of the camping area. Written comments are due by close of business May 16, 2010.
For more information and to provide comments, visit the BLM website.
Access Fund Announces First Round 2010 Grant Recipients
In the first round of the Climbing Preservation Grant Program for 2010, the Access Fund awarded over $23,000 to support local climbing activism and conservation of the climbing environment. Presented two times annually, the Climbing Preservation Grant program provides financial assistance for local climber activism and protection of the climbing environment in the United States. During this first round of grants, the Access Fund is supporting nine worthy projects. The following grants were awarded this round:
Northern Wisconsin Climbers Coalition – Organizational Start-up
A grant was awarded to Northern Wisconsin Climbers Coalition (NWCC) for start-up costs associated with their 501(c)(3) non profit application, incorporation, and a vinyl banner. In their first year, NWCC has been highly active, seeking partnerships with public entities such as Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The incorporation process is a key step for organizational fundraising and future projects.
CRAG-VT - Carcass Crag Acquisition
CRAG-VT was awarded a grant for the acquisition of 3 acres of cliff line, known as Carcass Crag, adjacent to the Bolton Quarry. The Carcass Crag, although small, includes highly popular climbs on an 80’ overhanging schist wall and continues to yield linkups and new routes. Public access to this privately owned crag would have been lost this summer if an acquisition was not completed. The grant money allowed CRAG-VT to secure a purchase and sale agreement with closing expected in July.
Idaho State University Outdoor Adventure Center - Ross Park Sunny Side Restoration
A grant was awarded to Idaho State University Outdoor Adventure Center for heavy trail work at the popular Rose Park Sunny Side climbing area. This work will create one access trail, eliminating numerous social trails along the cliff that are causing erosion problems. This is a joint project by the City, University, and local climbers.
Climbers of Hueco Tanks - Clean-up and Trail Work
A grant was awarded to Climbers of Hueco Tanks Coalition to help recoup costs associated with a February clean-up at Hueco Tanks. The event drew 85 volunteers to complete a trail project in the maze area and clean over 40 areas at the State Historic Site. This project was a great example of climbers building a stronger relationship with land managers to balance cultural and natural resource protection with public recreation.
Colorado Mountain Club - Lincoln Icefall
Colorado Mountain Club was awarded a grant for GIS mapping to address access issues at the ice climbing area of Lincoln Falls, which is popular in the fall when other ice climbs have not yet formed. The project will also address access issues and trail construction at three popular fourteeners: Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross. The Access Fund grant will assist with the GIS mapping to help resolve these access issues in an area complicated by private parcels and access points.
Peter Clark of West Virginia University - New River Gorge Sustainable Climbing Assessment
A grant was awarded to Peter Clark, a graduate student at West Virginia University, who is conducting a baseline study of cliff flora in the New River Gorge. This study will evaluate and compare flora populations in areas of different climbing use (trad, sport, top roping). The goal is to evaluate sustainable recreational use of the cliffs by climbers and hikers. The research proposal comes with support of the New River Alliance of Climbers.
National Park Service - Exit Strategies Conference
The National Park Service was awarded a grant to assist with a 2010 conference on exit strategies of human waste. This conference will include land managers and representatives from major climbing areas facing waste management crises due to high recreational use. This new grant will match a grant given to the National Park Service last year in preparation for the conference.
Madrone Wall Preservation Committee – Madrone Wall Trail System
A grant was awarded to the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee (MWPC) to build a trail system at Madrone Wall in Oregon. The County will not allow public access until adequate parking and trails are established; however, they are matching the Access Fund grant with labor costs for project coordinators, vehicle use, and trail building tools. There will be three trail-building days with opportunities for volunteers to climb on those days. This is one of the final hurdles for re-opening Madrone Wall after 13 years of closure.
Arkansas Climbers Coalition - Sam's Throne Vault Toilets
A grant was awarded to the Arkansas Climbers Coalition (ARCC) to assist the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest in the purchase and installation of two vault toilets at Sam’s Throne. In 2005, the Forest Service upgraded the area to include a primitive campground and additional day-use parking area with an informational kiosk. ARCC has hosted a number of Adopt a Crag events in recent years, yet the lack of toilet facilities has led to growing environmental damage at the site. The Access Fund grant, along with matching funds from the Forest Service and ARCC, will allow the toilet installation to be completed.
Red Rocks Threatened by Massive Housing Development
An upcoming zoning exception could turn the few acres left between the grid of Las Vegas and Red Rocks into a housing development, forever changing the views from your favorite multi-pitch Red Rock climbs. In 2002, the Access Fund helped defeat a proposal to build 8,400 homes—including a school, golf course and businesses—on Blue Diamond Hill across the road from the world class climbing at Red Rocks. Now the notorious Rhodes Development (responsible for the ugly tract homes creeping towards Red Rocks) is close to receiving county approval that could lead to a 1,700-acre McMansion project. This is the kind of housing development eyesore that Blue Diamond residents and Red Rocks visitors have opposed for years.
On April 21, Clark County will vote on an exception to a local ordinance that prevents developments of more than two homes per acre on the land within the Red Rock Overlay District. If this zoning exception is granted, the development on Blue Diamond Hill could go forward, and the few acres left between the grid of Las Vegas and Red Rocks will be filled with million-dollar homes.
Some critics think that this effort to ease zoning restrictions is just a ploy to raise property values and thus enable the Rhodes Development to milk taxpayers for more money if the federal government is forced to buy the property to protect scenic values at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The Access Fund is working with local Las Vegas climbers and conservation groups to again defeat this proposal. To get more information, contact the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council andSave Red Rock Canyon.
Stay tuned after the April 21 Clark County Commission vote for ways you can help protect the unparalleled climbing experience at Red Rocks.
Climbing Banned at Portion of Castle Rocks – Access Fund Set to Appeal
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a climbing ban on 400 acres in the Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area, adjacent to Castle Rocks State Park in Idaho. This ban affects over 40 established climbs and hundreds of potential new routes.
The BLM acted on the basis that a climbing ban is needed to protect historic cultural resources inventoried by a recent field survey. The Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, who have a rich history in this area, support the ban, expressing concern that climbing could negatively impact their cultural resources on the property. However the field study found these resources in two specific areas of the property and a subsequent environmental assessment failed to state why climbing could not continue where there are no conflicts with cultural resources.
The Access Fund supports legitimate resource protection strategies, but disagrees with the BLM’s decision to manage the entire area with the highest level of protection, especially the areas where the environmental assessment did not identify any resources in need of protection. The BLM will still allow hunting, hiking, and grazing to continue, and numerous alternatives exist that could also allow climbing and still protect the cultural resources.
Other BLM offices across the country effectively managing climbing in areas where significant cultural resources have been identified, including Shelf Road in Colorado; Red Rocks in Nevada; and Indian Creek, Moab/Castle Valley, and San Rafael Swell in Utah. The standard at these locations is that climbing may occur within 50 feet of a specific cultural resource.
The BLM has a long history of maintaining resource protection standards and still allowing for legitimate recreational uses like climbing. The ban that the local BLM office has imposed for its Castles property is more restrictive than any other BLM climbing area in the country, and is an even higher standard than those imposed on wilderness areas or other highly protected land designations.
The Access Fund is set to appeal the BLM decision on the grounds that 1) the BLM has not sufficiently identified the cultural resources in need of protection, 2) the BLM has not shown that climbing (sport or traditional) would inevitably cause adverse effects to those resources, and 3) that there are less restrictive alternatives available that could allow climbing and protect cultural resources.
The Access Fund will support any climbing restrictions or closures where the BLM can demonstrate that discrete cultural resources and climbing opportunities conflict or are within a 50-foot buffer zone. It also supports reasonable measures and/or compromises where climbing and the hiking approaches to climbing may be restricted or diverted around in the zones that contain a high density of cultural resources.
History of the area
The BLM property sits within a patchwork of public lands commonly known as the Castle Rocks Interagency Recreation Area, and is owned and managed by three different agencies—US Forest Service, BLM, and Idaho Parks and Recreation. Since 2003, the three agencies have been working together, in collaboration with the Access Fund and local climbers, to develop a multiagency Climbing Management Plan that would govern climbing practices across all of the properties. The climbing plan, which authorizes the establishment of new climbing routes, placement of fixed anchors, and construction of new trails, was adopted by the Idaho Parks and Recreation and currently governs climbing at Castle Rocks State Park, adjacent to the BLM property.
Before also signing on to the climbing management plan, the BLM initiated an environmental assessment in order to survey historic and cultural resources that may be present on the property, and analyze the impact of climbing on those resources. The agency allowed climbing during the environment assessment process, but imposed a ban on overnight camping and bolting/fixed anchors (though a number of routes already had bolts that were placed before the BLM ban was issued).
During the environmental assessment process, the Twin Falls Resource Advisory Council and the Access Fund supported adoption of the Interagency Climbing Management Plan. However, the Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute Tribes native to the area expressed concerns related to potential climbing impacts to cultural resources on the BLM property.
The Access Fund and local climbers have a decade-long history working collaboratively with federal land management agencies in the Castle Rocks Recreation Area. The Access Fund assisted the National Park Service with a land acquisition that enabled the creation of Castle Rocks State Park. Climbers have also worked extensively with the local BLM, Forest Service, and Idaho Parks and Recreation offices to create climbing management plans for the area. The Access Fund looks forward to working with the local BLM office and the local tribes to establish climbing management policies that protect the historic cultural resources, while still allowing for legitimate recreational uses of this public land.
Erik Weihenmayer Presents Adventures in the Vertical World to Support Access Fund
Since climbing the Seven Summits and becoming the only blind person to complete this journey, Erik Weihenmayer has undertaken extraordinary expeditions and projects around the world. Most recently, Erik climbed the Naked Edge, a classic highly-technical rock climb in Eldorado Canyon State Park with Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson and Charley Mace. The goal of this climb was to raise awareness for the Access Fund.
Please join us on Thursday, April 8 at 8:00 pm as Erik Weihenmayer presents Adventures in the Vertical World at Neptune Mountaineering. See the incredible video, Blind and Naked, of Erik climbing the Naked Edge. Also hear first-hand accounts from Brady Robinson and Charley Mace about their involvement in this incredible achievement. Tickets are $7 and you will receive a Neptune coupon the night of the show.
All proceeds from the evening go to support the work of the Access Fund. Tickets are on sale now and the night of the show at Neptune Mountaineering.
We hope to see you there!
Red Rocks Wilderness Plan Still in the Works
Despite several starts and stops over the last few years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to work on a wilderness management plan that will affect climbing policies at Red Rocks near Las Vegas. This plan is also likely to serve as a model for how fixed anchors are authorized at other wilderness areas around the country.
In 2007 the BLM proposed new climbing and bolting regulations for the La Madre Mountain and Rainbow Mountain wilderness areas (most of Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area). However, after a public comment period, the proposal proved controversial with respect to potential safety issues, an overly complex permit process, arbitrary bolting standards, and the enforceability of the plan. For more background, click here.
Several changes in the local BLM staff over the past three years have prevented the plan from proceeding, but the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council continues to communicate with the BLM to represent climber interests and work on collaborative conservation projects. The BLM hopes to have another draft plan completed by October 2010, at which point the public will have another opportunity to comment. For more information, contact the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council at email@example.com, or Jason@accessfund.org.
Action Alert: New York State Parks on Chopping Block
New York State Parks are at Risk! For the first time ever, budget woes may close down New York State parks, including the climbing found at Minnewaska State Park. We need your help to support funding for New York's parks by contacting your state legislators and Governor Paterson. This is a LIVE Action Alert. Visit our advocacy center and take action now!